Thursday, December 18, 2014

Václav Havel's advice to President Obama and to Cubans

Three Years Later: Missing Havel's Moral Stature
Service for Václav Havel on third anniversary of his passing
Three years ago today Václav Havel passed away and today he remains greatly missed. In large part, sadly, this is due to the lack of anyone else on the international scene with his moral stature and consistent solidarity with the victims of repression world wide. For example, ten days prior to his passing Havel signed on as one of the members of a new International Committee to Support Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Murdered over international airspace on February 24, 1996
Yesterday, watching the spectacle of the Obama Administration orchestrating the unveiling of its change in Cuba policy while trying to obfuscate that it had been blackmailed by the Castro regime into releasing a man convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down in order to obtain the freedom of Alan Gross, an innocent man brought to mind an observation made back in 2009 by the late Czech president.

Families of four men murdered on 2/24/96 speak out yesterday
Havel believed that moral actions, no matter how small or futile they may appear at the time can have profound consequences for both freedom and a just society. It is because the world is not a puzzle to be solved but incredibly much more complex that decisions of right and wrong made by each person have such great weight.

Back in 2009, President Barack Obama had backed out of meeting with the Dalai Lama due to an upcoming trip to China, Havel offered the following reflection on October 12, 2009 at the Forum 2000 conference:
I believe that when the new Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize postpones receiving the Dalai Lama until after he has accomplished his visit to China, he makes a small compromise, a compromise which actually has some logic to it. However, there arises a question as to whether those large, serious compromises do not have their origin and roots in precisely these tiny and very often more or less logical compromises.
The New York Times in their October 13, 2009 issue in an article titled Vaclav Havel, Still a Man of Morals and Mischief: reported that in an interview that was supposed to be about the revolutions that overturned communism 20 years earlier that President Havel raised the question asking if it was true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama? Havel replied:
“It is only a minor compromise,” Mr. Havel said of the non-reception of the Tibetan leader. 'But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems. “This is actually the first time I really do mind something Obama did,' Mr. Havel said. He minded it “much more” than Mr. Obama’s recent decision not to station elements of a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic, a move that several Central European politicians criticized but that Mr. Havel noted was ultimately “an internal American decision.”
Unfortunately, the failure of American diplomats, to reach Alan Gross for 25 days following his kidnapping by the Castro regime in December 2009 sent a signal to the dictatorship that they could do what they wanted with this man. Over the next five years they used him as a bargaining chip demanding the release of Cuban spies who had engaged in espionage, planned to carry out terrorist acts and were implicated in the murder of American citizens.Yesterday the hardliners in the regime achieved their objective.

Unfortunately, the consequences for Cuba and the Americas with these moral compromises by the Obama Administration will be "big and dangerous ones" generating new problems and challenges.  Make no mistake the message to enemies of the United States yesterday was crysstal clear: Take an American hostage and hang on to him for years until your demands are met and you'll get what you want. It sets a terrible and dangerous precedent.

Thankfully, Vaclav Havel has words of advice that he gave in a message to all Cubans inside and outside of the island when he spoke to them at Florida International University back on September 23, 2002 that remain timely and relevant today:
Our world, as a whole, is not in the best of shape and the direction it is headed in may well be quite ambivalent. But this does not mean that we are permitted to give up on free and cultivated thinking and to replace it with a set of utopian clichés. That would not make the world a better place, it would only make it worse. On the contrary, it means that we must do more for our own freedom, and that of others.

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